Civil Liberties

For School Kids in California, A Fight is Just a Fight—Not a Crime

In other words, a blow has been struck against the school-to-prison pipeline!


Great news out of California: An appeals court there just ruled that when two students get into a fight on school grounds, it isn't a crime for the courts to rule on—it's merely something the principal has to handle. In other words, a blow has been struck against the school-to-prison pipeline!

Bob Egelko in the SFGate has more on the specific details of the determination, which was reached by the First District Court of Appeals:

The case comes from Ukiah, where 15-year-old Fernando C. got into a fistfight with a fellow high school student behind a shed near the football practice fields one day in December 2012. Neither student was hurt, Fernando's lawyer said, but police referred the case to the Mendocino County district attorney, who charged the youth with the misdemeanor crime of fighting on school grounds.

It turned out that fighting on school grounds is a crime only for a non-student, and doesn't apply under state law to a student enrolled at the school. A juvenile court judge agreed to substitute the charge of fighting in a "public place." The judge found that Fernando had committed that crime and placed him on probation.

The First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed Thursday and threw the case out.

Juvenile Detention Center
Wikimedia Commons

A panel of three judges reasoned that student fights on school grounds should be subject to school discipline, not the juvenile justice system.

As Fernando's court-appointed lawyer said, "It's something that society at large is starting to recognize, that not every mistake a child makes in life is chargeable as a criminal offense."

Amen to that.

For more stories like this one, check out Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog.